We are starting to open up a bit about what we are doing here at Playable Worlds!
I am going to tell you that yes, worlds can feel alive, like real places. Places where you can stake out your virtual homestead, and leave your mark in a lasting way. Online worlds can be dynamic, fully persistent, and modifiable by players, and not just unchanging cardboard set pieces an inch deep and monetized a mile wide.
We have the technology: cloud computing power lets us do things with simulation and AI that once seemed impossible. This dream can come true.
I think it came out a bit more somber than I had anticipated, certainly more somber than the sample slides I submitted. We shall see what the long-term reaction is, as I pulled no punches in describing the awesome responsibility people have in building online communities.
I was also losing my voice, so it was very much a deliberate and slow presentation compared to my usual “high speed brain blast” as one attendee once described my usual speaking style.
Not only was this in the afternoon of the last day, but I was opposite the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, which is one of the best-attended sessions at GDC usually. So the room was definitely sparser than usual. That said, there were several old virtual worlds hands present to confirm what I said, backing me up during the Q&A period, and there were also a number of current developers of both social VR worlds and even social AR games like PokemonGO. (In fact, I heard a few members of that team were in the audience, and I hope I didn’t offend by picking on their game so much).
The session was filmed, so hopefully video will be forthcoming; once it is, I will post a link to that as well.
Almost exactly seven years ago, I gave a keynote at the virtual worlds-themed Worlds in Motion Summit at GDC. I was supposed to talk about why games people should care about virtual worlds. But I just couldn’t warm to the topic.
I was in the midst of wrestling with Metaplace, which was the culmination of ten years of dreaming about the potential of virtual spaces. We were trying to put into practice the ideals embodied in things like the Declaration of the Rights of Avatars, the loftiness of hopes for general empowerment thanks to the newly interactive Web. But at the same time, I was watching tens of millions of venture capital dollars flow into kids’ worlds, virtual worlds about McDonalds and by teddy bear companies and tied in to bad reality TV shows and more.